Chris Bridges, Founder and CEO, VITAL Card Inc.
Paired with good payment history, credit cards can effectively help us build our credit score. This could improve our chances of qualifying for loans and other financial products. What happens if you don’t use your credit card?
Does it hurt your credit score? Can you lose your access to credit now or in the future? Let’s explore the possible consequences of what happens if you don’t use your credit card after a certain amount of time.
What Are the Reasons a Cardholder May Not Want To Use Their Credit Card?
An individual might not want to take advantage of their credit card for a variety of different reasons. It’s possible they’re trying to save money for retirement or an emergency fund, or they want to avoid accumulating credit card debt. They could be worried about data breaches and becoming a victim of credit card fraud.
Another possible scenario is if a cardholder is trying to improve their credit score. In this case, using their card could keep them from reaching that goal since a high balance may increase their overall credit card utilization ratio, which is a measurement of debt to total available credit. Financial experts recommend keeping a low card utilization rate of up to 30 percent.
While having a credit card potentially provides a degree of financial flexibility, it can also motivate people to spend more money than they can afford to pay back. This could prove financially detrimental to someone who is trying to get their finances under control.
There are also some cardholders who use their cards only for emergencies. Lastly, certain people may simply not feel comfortable using credit cards. Whether it’s because of high-interest rates, a lack of self-control, or something else entirely, some people prefer to stick with cash or debit cards.
Can Credit Card Inactivity Affect Your Credit Score?
Your credit score is based on your credit history, which includes information about your credit card use. Depending on the number of credit cards you have and how many are inactive, your credit score could be impacted. Not using any of your credit cards could lead to a lower credit score because you’re not building a positive credit history despite having multiple lines of credit open.
In addition, carrying a balance on your credit card month to month without making progress in paying off that debt could result in a drop in your credit score. If you’re not using your credit card for long periods of time, it’s important to keep an eye on your credit score.
Fortunately, you can take steps to improve your credit score if you notice it decreasing. This can be done by using other forms of credit responsibly and paying your bills on time, such as student loan payments.
Monitoring your credit is easy when you leverage financial tools and resources. For example, every year, the federal government offers individuals one free copy of their credit report, which includes information from the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
What Happens if You Don’t Use Your Credit Card?
Credit card companies periodically review accounts to determine if they’re being used. Inactivity on a credit card account is often an indication that the cardholder has lost interest in using the card or no longer needs it.
If an account is inactive for a long period of time, the credit card issuer may lower your credit limit. Another outcome of prolonged credit card inactivity is account closure, and you’ll no longer have access to that line of credit.
The exact time frame of inactivity before closure depends on the card issuer’s terms and conditions, though it could range from 12 to 36 months of zero spend. Additionally, the card issuer does not have to give advance notice before closing your account. The creditor may also report your account as inactive to the credit bureaus.
This can hurt your credit score if your credit utilization ratio ends up increasing or the card was your credit history’s oldest account. A number of different credit scoring models, such as FICO Scores, factor in credit history length when calculating scores.
If your account was in good standing, your credit report will note your closed credit card for up to 10 years. This could make it harder to get approved for new credit in the future since lenders review your credit score to determine your creditworthiness.
Another downside of a closed credit card account is that you may lose any rewards you’ve accrued. And if your card account had outstanding debt on which you no longer made minimum payments, your original creditor may contract a debt collections agency to solicit payments from you.
What Can You Do if Your Credit Card Was Closed for Inactivity?
Contact your credit card issuer directly to request that they reinstate your closed account. When you call, have your card number and account information ready to streamline the interaction with customer service. Then, explain the problem and the resolution you would ideally like to happen.
The customer service representative will likely try to help you resolve the issue. In the event you are not satisfied with the response you receive, ask to speak with a supervisor. Keep in mind there is a chance that the card issuer may not allow you to reactivate your account.
How Can You Avoid Account Closure Due to an Inactive Credit Card?
You can prevent card account closure by using your credit card every so often. Here’s how you can use your credit card at the minimum to keep your account active:
- Make small purchases regularly. Use your credit card for everyday purchases like gas or groceries, then pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.
- Purchase essentials once every few months. In general, an account is considered inactive when there’s a lack of spending activity for a year or more, so it could help to buy essentials on occasion with your credit card.
- Use your card for recurring expenses. If you have monthly bills like a gym membership or streaming subscription, consider using your credit card to pay them.
Regardless of your credit usage or lack thereof, it is recommended that you keep an eye on your account for any unusual activities or charges. If you do see suspicious transactions, contact your credit card issuer immediately.
Should You Keep a Credit Card if You Don’t Use It?
When it comes to credit cards, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether it’s better to close a credit card or keep the card but never use it. The best course of action can vary based on your unique personal finances and goals, such as if you’re seeking approval for an auto loan or mortgage in the near future.
If you have a credit card that you don’t use, it could make sense to close the account. An unused credit card can cost you money in annual fees. However, if you have a positive payment history with the credit card issuer, you may be able to negotiate a waiver of the fee.
Plus, your financial information is potentially at risk if the card is lost or stolen. Resolving such an issue is often tedious and time-consuming. On the other hand, keeping an unused credit card open can actually be helpful to your credit score because it lengthens your credit history.
Not to mention, if you have an unexpected expense or need access to cash quickly for an emergency situation, your credit card can be a lifesaver. While you should always try to repay any debt before your statement balance is due, having a credit card gives you the opportunity to pay over a period of time if necessary.
Bottom Line on Credit Card Inactivity
Your credit card can be more than just a piece of plastic. It has the potential to become a useful tool to help you earn rewards, take advantage of perks, and build your credit history. This is especially true when it comes to the VITAL Card, which offers a generous cash-back rewards program and financial tracking tools to help cardholders manage their money.
Use your credit card regularly and make payments on time to improve your credit score. This can be helpful if you eventually plan to take out a loan or get a mortgage. Conversely, by not using your credit card, you could be missing out on rewards and perks, such as cashback or travel points, and your account could become inactive.
What’s more, your credit card issuer could decide to close your account if it’s remained inactive for too long. That could negatively impact your credit score for several months, and the outcome could affect your approval rate for new lines of credit.
Overall, your credit card could serve as a powerful tool to help you reach your financial goals. Sign up for the VITAL Card today to earn rewards and join a community of financially savvy individuals.
VITAL Card blog posts are intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered financial or any other type of advice.